Tiger’s Memorial press conference: Sunday
CHRIS REIMER: We want to congratulate and welcome our five-time Memorial Tournament champion, 73 PGA TOUR wins, obviously tying Mr.Nicklaus for second all-time on the PGA TOUR. Just some opening comments about the victory and what it means to do it here at Mr.Nicklaus’ event.
TIGER WOODS: Well, it’s awfully special to just have won this event, and to do it here with Jack obviously there at 18, it’s awfully special for us as players to have him there and to greet us after we finish. It’s just so special.
To kind of pull it off today at the end, you know, I was a few back with a few to go, and to birdie three of the last four was a nice finish. And to pull off that shot at 16, that was kind of sweet, too.
But to do — to be able to tie Jack at 73 wins and to do it at such a young age, it feels really special.
Q: Mr. Nicklaus mentioned out on the green during closing ceremonies he’s never seen a better shot than your chip-in on 16. Take us through that.
TIGER WOODS: The shot was really difficult, but it wouldn’t have been so bad if I had a good lie. If the lie was decent, it would not have brought water into play. That was the thing. The lie was just a little bit marginal where it brought water into play. That’s one of the reasons why I took such a big cut at it is to try to under cut it enough so if I missed it I missed it short and if it had enough speed it wouldn’t snag it and tug it long left, so obviously the hosel wouldn’t have been snagged by the grass.
I went for it. I pulled it off, and for it to land as soft as it did was kind of a surprise because it was baked out and it was also downhill running away from me. It just fell in. I didn’t think it was going to get there at one point. Kind of like 16 at Augusta, I thought I was going to leave it short somehow, and then it fell in.
Q: Where does that rank amongst some of your best shots, whether it be the 16th at Augusta or maybe when you holed out at Hoylake, or I don’t know where you would put that one.
TIGER WOODS: It was one of the hardest ones I’ve pulled off. I think probably the hardest pitch not too many people saw was the one in Japan in the World Cup to get into the playoff. But obviously you guys never saw it. (Laughter.) That was a pretty sweet shot.
But this one was a good one. As I said, it wouldn’t have been so bad if the lie was better. But as I said, the lie was sketchy enough where it brought water into play.
CHRIS REIMER: Mr.Nicklaus, I know you congratulated Tiger out at closing ceremonies and you mentioned 16. Some opening comments from you?
JACK NICKLAUS: I think that — I just said out here a couple times, that under the circumstances, the circumstances being Tiger has been struggling, he found himself in a position in a tournament, and it was either fish or cut bait, he had one place to land the ball, he’s playing a shot that if he leaves it short, he’s going to leave himself again a very difficult shot, if he hits it long, he’s going to probably lose the tournament. He lands the ball exactly where it has to land. It doesn’t make a difference whether it went in the hole or not. Going in the hole was a bonus. But what a shot. I don’t think under the circumstances I’ve ever seen a better shot.
Q: The other day you said it’s not about magic and memories, and I actually wonder if it was about magic and memories.
TIGER WOODS: Well, more magic than memory, I think. One shot was, at least. But today was fun because I striped it today. I just — from the word go, it was — Jack and I were talking about it out there on the green, the only shot I tugged, double-crossed, was the second shot on 10. Other than that, it was just every shot was exactly the shape, the trajectory, the distance control. I had it all today, shape off tees, whatever club I wanted to hit, I could hit. That was fun to have it when I needed it.
Q: You grew up idolizing Jack and having his poster on your bedroom wall. What is it like to get your 73rd win and tie him for the second all-time PGA TOUR record? And Jack, what’s it like to have Tiger tie you?
JACK NICKLAUS: I’ll let him answer first.
TIGER WOODS: Well, it’s special for me to do it here, to do it with Jack here, with his involvement in the tournament and the game. It just makes it that much more special. If I would have won it somewhere else, it would have just been I tied Jack. But it do it here and have him here right next to me right now, that means something to us as players, and it’s awfully special for me to be here with him right now.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, he had to rub it in my face right here, didn’t he? (Laughter.)
No, if he’s going to do it, which he was obviously going to, I’d like to see it happen here. That was good. That was great. And the way he did it, you know, he just played great. Last time he won here, what, three years ago, he played a great tournament three years ago. Came here a little bit struggling then and just absolutely just blitzed it, and he did it again this week. I hope you like the golf course. If you don’t, let me know. But you seem to play it pretty well.
Q: Tiger, you won Bay Hill earlier this year in front of another legend, and Masters was two weeks hence. You’re sort of in a similar position with the U.S. Open two weeks from now. Can you compare maybe just a little bit about your game this week compared to winning at Bay Hill, how you’re coming into this next major?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, at Bay Hill I was — I played well on that Sunday, but I just didn’t quite have the control I did today. That was different. I’m able to hit the ball, I think, compressing it higher than I did at Bay Hill. I was comfortable hitting it down, uncomfortable hitting it up. As I said at Augusta to you guys, I got exposed, wasn’t able to get the ball up in the air comfortably, and it showed.
Went to work on it for the next few weeks, and I finally got it. It came around here when I needed it. This is a high ball golf course. You’ve got to get the ball up in the air and you’ve got to land it soft, and I did it.
Q: Can you detail your illness? How sick did you get yesterday and how high did you spike your fever, and how much better do you feel now?
TIGER WOODS: It was an Friday. I stayed consistent for Friday and Saturday, and it was 102.
Q: When did it break?
TIGER WOODS: Last night.
Q: Do you recall the last time that you emoted the way you did at 16 with kind of the signature roundhouse right and signature fist pump?
TIGER WOODS: I don’t know what I did. Honestly I couldn’t tell you. I know I got excited. Probably not since the World Challenge last year in December when I made that putt to win.
Q: I guess it probably started after you won in March, the he’s back, is he back, no, he’s not back, yes, he’s back. What do you say? Do you think you’re back?
TIGER WOODS: I won. (Laughter.)
I’m sure by Tuesday I’ll be retired and done, and then by the time I tee it up at the U.S. Open it might be something different. But I’ll let you guys figure that out.
Q: You talked a little bit about your swing struggles. Was there a moment here in the last few weeks when you knew in practice you had it? Was there a point when you said, yeah, I’ve finally got this?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, last week I did some good things, good work at home, and really got comfortable with the things that Sean and I have been working on the last few tournaments and month. They finally felt comfortable, basically. As soon as they felt comfortable, I was good to go. And when I went out and played Olympic, I hit the ball well there. I said, hey, that’s as good a prep as any for this event, if I can hit the ball well there. I just basically carried that into this event and hit it great all week.
Q: Rickie talked about how he really didn’t play that badly, but the conditions were so difficult, the golf course is so exacting, can you talk a little bit about the conditions and with this kind of wind, this kind of golf course, how that adds to the feeling about this victory?
TIGER WOODS: It doesn’t take much around this golf course to go either way. If you look at the scores, you’re going to see a few guys that are probably 3-, 4-under par, and you’re going to see a boatload of guys 75 and up. This golf course is demanding. When you get the wind swirling like this, the wind blowing like this and the greens this fast, it’s going to put a test on you. And you’ve got to have control of the game.
Rickie wasn’t playing that bad starting out. He made a few mistakes, but that’s all it takes around this place. And if you miss the ball in the wrong spot, you’re going to pay the ultimate penalty, and for some reason he just kept hitting it just in that one spot, and unfortunately it kind of spiraled the wrong way.
Q: Your final round average here is a 68, which is the best final round average of any tournament that you played 10 or more times. What is it about Sundays here that bring out your best?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I just feel comfortable on this golf course. As I was saying to the guys out there, over the course of my career, I’ve played Jack’s designed golf courses well, and I think that we kind of see the game similarly, how we hit the golf ball, the traj we hit it on, the way we think around the golf course. And for some reason over the course of my career, I’ve done really well on his golf courses, even going back to my amateur days. I’ve won at a couple of his venues.
When I come here, it’s just one of those feelings where I just feel comfortable. Even though I may be struggling or not, I just have a good feeling of how to play the golf course.
Q: Going into 16 did you change your mindset at all to say I’ve got to step on the gas now or anything?
TIGER WOODS: No, not at all, not at all. I thought if I played the last three holes in 1-under par that I would probably get into a playoff. I just felt that I just needed one coming in, just to force those guys to at least think about it back there. I don’t know where they made a mistake because after I birdied there, the lead was at 8, and all of a sudden I saw the guy were at 7 and 6 quickly, but I don’t know where they made mistakes.
TIGER WOODS: 16? Yeah, so I just felt that if I could just get one, it would force those guys to have to play the last two holes and at least win the golf tournament outright. But I just felt that I needed first to get through 16, which I ended up doing with a bonus, but then even after birdieing 16, I still felt I needed one more somewhere.
I thought I made that putt at 17 and looked a little bit like a fool, missed it by a few inches, but 18 ended up being pretty good.
Q: What were you hoping for on the chip at 16, how close?
TIGER WOODS: I was trying to get inside probably eight or 10 feet, yeah. As I’ve said, if the lie wasn’t that bad, then I wouldn’t have been worried about the water and I would have tried to get it really close.
Q: Are you thinking number when you get to a shot like that or just shot; in other words, I’ve just got to get a par and get out of here?
TIGER WOODS: Absolutely, just give myself a putt at it with that lie I had. If I just put it anywhere in that section of the green where I have a putt at it, I felt like I was putting well, and I should be able to bury that putt and go the last two holes and try and get one.
Q: Was that your sand wedge?
TIGER WOODS: 60.
Q: Jack, you redesigned 16 to put a little more excitement into the tournament. How do you think that’s worked out?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, today — we had wind all week. The first day wasn’t bad. The pin was tucked in the first pin placement the first day. But today, I don’t think the field staff — I think the field staff got caught a little bit. They were forecasting for a southwest wind, we had a northwest wind, and with the northwest wind that back pin placement from the back tee was really tough. That wasn’t what I had in mind to be very honest with you. That green with a southwest wind funnels right down the green, meaning that if you’re standing back there on the tee and you hit it, you’re going to be buffeted slightly from the right and it should turn the ball. The old green went this way, this green goes this way, so it should feed it to the green.
But when you’ve got a strong left to right, don’t put the pin in the back left, please. It just made it so the guys couldn’t play it. Not many guys did, they really just needed to put the ball in the middle of the green there if they could and then try to make a two-putt. But guys kept trying to force it back there and they kept going to the back of the green or going in the back bunker and it was tough.
TIGER WOODS: Oh, really?
JACK NICKLAUS: It was tough. It was tough. I’m glad I didn’t have to play my own hole.
That’s probably right, isn’t it, Jon?
JON BRENDLE: You guys were forecasting southwest. I don’t know. We wanted to play it tough for you.
JACK NICKLAUS: No, I don’t want you to play it right for me. I want you to play it right.
JON BRENDLE: We knew it was going to be tough all day.
JACK NICKLAUS: That’s your call, not my call. Jon and I talked during the week, we had five pin placements, you didn’t use the back right. You could’ve used back right today probably with the way the wind was.
JON BRENDLE: I thought it was more fair back right.
JACK NICKLAUS: Boy, you’re mean.
TIGER WOODS: I made 2. (Laughter.)
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, he made 2. The little pin placement on the right he made 2, also. You played that hole a couple under?
TIGER WOODS: I did play it a couple under.
JACK NICKLAUS: So what’s so tough about it? Isn’t the hole supposed to separate you?
TIGER WOODS: Here we go.
CHRIS REIMER: Mr.Nicklaus, just some closing comments on the week as a whole.
JACK NICKLAUS: I thought the tournament was great. As I said at the presentation, we had four different days, four different conditions. You guys — they were tested probably more so than I’ve seen the golf course and players tested with different conditions. Paul Latshaw and his crew did a great job of putting the golf course in shape, and the golf course played fast, which is what I like to see the golf course play. I think fast golf courses always produce the best golf. And I thought that the fans were fantastic this week. People loved the tournament. Everybody worked hard, and we’ve got to figure out how to get rid of cell phones. That’s the last thing.
Q: You talked earlier this week, Tiger, about playing in spurts. From a ball-striking standpoint, what kind of spurt was that this week?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I had it all week, from the word go, yeah.
Q: And then eventually where do you go to, putting tournaments together?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I’ll just keep going, keep working on it. This is a process, and just trying to get better. I have a big event in two weeks, and we go back to work next week to get ready.
Q: From what you saw at Olympic, does it set up nicely for you? Do you like the way that the holes go and the kind of shots you’re going to have to hit?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it’s way different than in ’98. They’ve added some serious length there. We were hitting different clubs off the tees and different sight lines, and they’ve shifted a couple of the fairways over, and all new green complexes. You know, my book is useless from ’98.
JACK NICKLAUS: They’ve changed the greens?
TIGER WOODS: Everything. All resurfaced. My book is useless from ’98. Had to go out and chart a whole new book.
You know, some of the — as we were discussing earlier this week, that’s the hardest six holes ever to start off a tournament, No.1 being a par-4 now, and No.3 at 250, it’s going to be a hell of a test.
Q: Last night your agent Mark Steinberg was arrested on dunk driving charges. Did you know that before the round, and what are your thoughts?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I did, and no comment.
Q: Before the chip how unhappy were you with where the ball wound up, and how concerned were you that —
TIGER WOODS: Well, I was between 7 and 8 on the tee, and Joey was, in his way, trying to talk me into a 7, and I just didn’t — I didn’t feel comfortable that if I hit 7 I could hit it high enough and soft enough. I wanted as much spin as I could possibly put on it. But I felt that if I hit 8, then it could bring the edge on the left into play, so I aimed it a little further right. I figured if I banked it up against the wind a little bit, I could kill it a little bit, which I hit 8 landing it softly, and I pulled it off perfectly. I hit it right on the edge of the crease where the water comes in and turns, and I hit it right on that crease, and it was just perfect, and it just flew too far.
I didn’t think it would be up on the downslope like that. I thought if anything it would just roll over the back, but I flew it to the back edge.
Q: When you talk about the evolution of the swing and how it’s coming along, is it fair to say that the driver you’d like to fade, the 3-wood you seem to like to turn over, and where are the irons in terms of getting all the trajectories? Do you feel like you can hit a 3-iron as high and soft as you used to? Do you feel like you can flight it? And then all the way down to wedges?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I can hit the long irons just as high, but further because I’m —
Q: As you used to?
TIGER WOODS: I’m hitting it further because I’m compressing it now instead of scooping it. The driver, I do like hitting a hard fade out there, and the 3-wood I can hit either way. It doesn’t really matter. But the driver I do like hitting a hard cut. It carries about 280 or so. But I feel comfortable if I have to turn it, I can, like I did on 13 yesterday. I turned it down there. I just felt comfortable, and I saw the shot, and I just felt comfortable with it. Today I didn’t. Didn’t really feel it, didn’t really see it, so I hit a 5-wood down there and played on from there.
Q: Would you say you have enough in your bag right now that you feel you can pretty much compete as well as you ever have?
TIGER WOODS: Uh-huh.
Q: I want to test your memory because mine is fading. When you chipped in at 16, there was a joke in here that maybe now you’ve chipped in on every hole here. But certainly I remember two different times at 14, wasn’t there one at 11 a couple years ago and one at 6.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, when I won in ’09 that was for birdie.
Q: At 11?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, that was for birdie. No, actually it was for eagle.
Big chip-ins? 6 was on the green against Vijay. I chipped in twice on him that day.
Q: I’m sure he liked that.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, he doesn’t like that, does he?
CHRIS REIMER: Well, congratulations, Mr. Woods and Mr. Nicklaus, on a great event and a good victory.